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Wish you were here - historic Henfield

PUBLISHED: 11:39 17 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:44 20 February 2013

The Cat House and Church Terrace circa 1912. The story behind the decorations of the Cat House of the cat holding a bird is told in this month’s Sussex Scrapbook.

The Cat House and Church Terrace circa 1912. The story behind the decorations of the Cat House of the cat holding a bird is told in this month’s Sussex Scrapbook.

Take a trip down memory lane to historic Henfield, as we delve into the archives of a postcard collector whose hobby chronicles a time of major change in the town's past.

Words by Michael Palmer
pictures courtesy of Alan Barwick and Henfield Museum


Weve all hastily scrawled a droll message onto the back of a postcard from some far-flung beach but, at a time when picking up the phone wasnt an option, they were once a vital means of communication.


With its wealth of resort towns and quaint villages, Sussex was the perfect subject for postcard photographers, and some towns, like Henfield, even had their own. One collector, Alan Barwick, has amassed a collection of at least 850 cards of Henfield, but estimates there are in excess of 1,500 out there.
A curator at Henfield Museum, youll struggle to find anyone more knowledgeable about the town born and bred in Henfield, Alan has been collecting postcards for more than 24 years.


You start off collecting your own village, he says, and then you start running out so you branch out a bit further I started to collect surrounding villages too.


The earliest known postcard of Henfield dates to May 1902, and is a view of the High Street. The towns most prolific postcard photographer was E.L. Merrett, who operated from c.1910 to 1914, and the vast majority of cards were produced between 1900 and 1818, when people used to collect them in albums.


Postcards would also go beyond the traditional scenery images funerals, fires, car crashes, floods, carnivals and weddings were also all common themes. Although unintended at the time, they also provide us with a visual history of how our county used to look, and with Alans kind permission, weve reproduced some of his collection here. Welcome to old Henfield.


Find out more


For a more in-depth look at the towns history, visit Henfield Museum, tel: 01273 492 507

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